Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

It Takes Time to Discover That Infatuation Isn't Love

DEAR ABBY: I am 15 years old and my boyfriend just told me that he loves me. He has opened his heart to me, and I'm afraid that I have nothing to say to him in return.

I know what I feel for him is more than a crush. My emotions are too strong to just "like" him. I love to be around him, I love to talk to him, and I love it when we embrace. I just don't know if I love him.

I know he's not saying this to get me into bed. We were longtime friends before we went on a date. Besides, he's way too shy for that. It took us two months before we actually kissed.

All I know is I cannot concentrate on my school work. I want to talk with him 24 hours a day. When I am with him I feel like I am on cloud nine, and he can pull me out of my darkest moods. Please help me. Do you think that what I'm feeling could be love? -- CUPID-CRAZED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR CUPID-CRAZED: You are not the first teen-ager to ask this question. As I explain in my booklet, "What Every Teen Should Know," the crazy, mixed-up feelings you are experiencing are better known as infatuation. Infatuation

can possibly be the first step toward love, but is not, in itself, love.

During your teens, you will have a number of infatuations. Through a few of these -- and experience -- you will acquire a better sense of what love is.

DEAR ABBY: Your response to "Sitting on the Sidelines in New York," whose husband leaves her sitting at the table and dances with every other woman in the room, disregards the fact that she is upset. The reason she is upset -- jealousy, insecurity or whatever -- is unimportant.

If her husband loves her, he'll recognize that his behavior bothers her and change it, or compromise. Otherwise, he is being selfish and having his fun at her expense. It doesn't matter how good he is otherwise, what other people say, or even if his wife's complaints are unjustified. She is upset -- and it needs to be dealt with.

Yes, "Sitting on the Sidelines" should learn to dance is she doesn't know how. Maybe she also needs to work on her self-esteem. But when a partner in a relationship fails to change hurtful behavior, the couple is heading for trouble. I know. I've been there, and the woman I still love is no longer with me because I didn't act on it.

You men out there (and women), please listen to me: If it's hurting your partner and you truly love that person, then stop what you're doing. Discuss it with him or her and solve the problems to your mutual satisfaction. Otherwise, you may find yourself alone. -- LOST MY LADY

DEAR LOST MY LADY: "Sitting on the Sidelines" indicated that her husband is an otherwise affectionate and attentive partner. As you point out, however, he is not perfect. If he were, he would have done exactly as you recommend. You have learned a very valuable lesson, and I thank you for passing it on.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 79-year-old woman and I'm in pretty good shape for my age. Even so, I tire more easily these days, and shopping in department stores has become harder than it used to be because there is no place to sit down and rest for a few minutes. My feet and legs get tired, and if I could just sit and rest, I would be able to continue shopping. As it is, I end up taking a catalog and leaving, because I can't walk or stand that long.

With department stores competing so heavily for business, wouldn't you think they could put a chair or two near the cash register for us older folks? -- MAXINE, LONG BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR MAXINE: I would think they could -- and should -- even though space in department stores is very valuable.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600